Wanted: Creative, technically minded teens
On a rainy afternoon at the Brooklyn Park branch of the Hennepin County Library, Osseo High senior Christine Chukwuocha is helping young kids create.

They're using a Cameo - a machine that looks like a regular printer, but instead of ink on paper, the Cameo sends a sharp needle flying over sheets of vinyl to cut out shapes for stickers.

Chukwuocha leans over a young girl working on an iPad, showing her how to take a picture, turn it into a black silhouette, and then send it to the Cameo. A few minutes later, the girl peels back the outline of a panda's head - her very own, custom-made sticker.

It's one of many workshops in a library program called Teen Tech Squad.

Youth Services Librarian Adele Murray says it's like a job training program for the teens.

"We just pay them while we're doing it, so communications skills, planning, adapting to rapidly changing circumstances, and lots of other good job skills to have will be under their belts," said Murray.

But Chukwuocha says it's not just the Squad members who benefit.

"I wanted to help empower the youth here. I actually saw the library as an avenue to get youth more involved."

The teens have a big hand in deciding what each workshop focuses on. They can be anything from 3d printing to music production to science.

Library Youth Coordinator Bernie Farrell says it's about getting kids of all ages to learn outside of school.

"Part of what we try to do is encourage kids' interests and what their passions are because you're really motivated to learn about what you're really interested in," said Farrell.

Chukwuocha, who already has her eye on medical school, says the experience she's getting with the squad will mean a lot for her future.

"I learned leadership. I learned to pick up those leadership skills and be more organized."

Teen Tech Squad employees work about 25 hours a month on nights and weekends, earning $15 an hour, and they're hiring right now.

The squad is taking applications through April 7th on the Hennepin County Library website, http://hclib.org/about/jobs.

Mike Johnson, reporting

March 24, 2017


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